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Showing posts from August, 2017

Thought for the Day: What a Great Stroke of Luck to Experience a Total Solar Eclipse

I get my news largely from NPR.  "But... but... sputter... sputter... it's so biased!", you declaim.  Precisely why I like it.  Everyone is biased; people who claim to be unbiased (and often strive to hide their bias) are, therefore completely unreliable.  If I know your bias, then I can account for it and extract out the true bits from your rhetoric.

Before I tell you about the news story I heard this morning, you need to know some facts.  (I know, I know... I am always being told how boring it is to first clarify the facts before discussing something.  I strive to be boring.)  Around the main disc of the sun is a aura of plasma that extends millions of miles (millions of kilometers, if you prefer) into the surrounding space, known as the corona.  Since it is so much less dense than the body of the sun, it is much less bright.  In fact, the corona is all but invisible unless you actually block the light of the globe of the sun.  How do we even know about it, you might a…

Thought for the Day: When You Don't Have to Pick Up a Lost Object to Return

If ever there was mitzvah that seems absolutely logical, returning lost objects seems to exemplify that genre to perfection.  And yet, a good fraction of Bava Metzia discusses its intricacies.  In fact, though, one finds that most of the discussion is when the mitzvah to return lost objects does not, in fact, apply.  That tactic is often used by Chazal when mapping the applicability of this or that mitzvah.  By delineating the borders -- even if there is some small uncertainty (machlokes), we achieve clarity on what is definitely inside and what is definitely excluded.

Here are the primary exclusions to the obligation to even pick up a lost object.

First and foremost, you need to be sure it is a lost object you are retrieving.  As obvious as that sounds, it has quite practical implications.  First, an object that is lying in a protected area is not lost.  It may have been sitting there for months or years, as evidenced by the thick layer of dust and confirmed by carbon dating.  No mat…

Thought for the Day: Preparation for Tisha b'Av -- Improve Interpersonal Relationships Now

I had a rough time at the end of the day on Tisha b'Av this year.  In fact, I had to end my fast early (based on p'sak from a rav, of course).  When my granddaughter saw me eating and heard that the rav has told me I needed to eat, her comment was, "Oh.  Yes, I have heard that old people have trouble fasting."

Me?!  Old?!  Yes... me; old.  I didn't prepare any differently this year than previous years.  That was a mistake, because there is a big difference between this year and previous years; namely, the intervening years.  My first "take away" is that I need to start now preparing for Yom Kippur.  Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

My second take away is that I should really start now preparing for next Tisha b'Av.  As noted, the current observance of the Tisha b'Av season is lamenting our deficiency in our interpersonal relationships.  But we also know that the messiah is born (that is, the ultimate redemption begins) on …